Children face being left in ‘stateless legal limbo’ without international surrogacy framework, says solicitor

Committee examining Bill that would allow for forms of surrogacy in State hears from legal expert and surrogate

Children may be born into a “stateless legal limbo” if proposed legislation regulating assisted human reproduction in Ireland does not include a statutory framework for international surrogacy, a solicitor specialising in the field has said.

Annette Hickey told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on International Surrogacy on Thursday that the State “cannot run that risk”.

The committee is examining legislation that would formally allow certain forms of surrogacy to take place in the State.

The Health (Assisted Human Reproduction) Bill 2022 would regulate all forms of assisted human reproduction in the State, including IVF, surrogacy and newer technologies such as embryo screening. At present, there are no laws governing surrogacy in Ireland.

Ms Hickey, who works with Poe Kiely Hogan Lanigan Solicitors in Kilkenny, said the “undeniable reality” was that Irish-intended parents are continuing and will continue to pursue international surrogacy. She said in her practice about 2 per cent of intended parents were pursuing domestic surrogacy, with the remainder using the international option.

“All of us here want Irish international surrogacy to be of the highest possible ethical standard,” she said. “My fear is that if we allow the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill to go ahead without including a regulated statutory framework for international surrogacy, in the future Irish children may be born into a stateless legal limbo, stranded in the country of birth with no nationality.

“We cannot run that risk. It would lead to a crisis that would paint Ireland in the worst light internationally... The failure to use this Bill to provide that legal certainty would be regretted as a missed opportunity by future governments, ministers, officials and the public.”

Ms Hickey recommended the inclusion of a regulated statutory framework for international surrogacy in the legislation as well as inserting retrospective recognition of parentage in the Bill for all existing children born through surrogacy, both domestic and international.

She said from her experiences working with intended parents, the journey to parenthood through surrogacy was a “huge emotional, psychological, and financial undertaking, made all the more challenging by the lack of legal certainty and structure which currently exists”.

The committee also heard from surrogate Ivanna Holub, who carried twins for Irish couple Cathy and Keith Wheatley, almost three years ago.

Ms Holub recently fled Ukraine for Ireland with her three children with the help of the Wheatley family. She said it was “a great stress” that in Ireland she was considered as the legal mother of Ms Wheatley’s children.

“I am not their mother, so I want the Irish Government to change their opinion about surrogacy,” she said.

Ms Holub said that she made the Wheatley family “happy and I became happy because of this”.

“I have my own children and I want other people to have their full families because a happy family is a happy country,” she said.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times